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Chaos fic: It's not the fall (but the moment after)

November 30th, 2011 (10:15 am)
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Title: It’s not the fall (but the moment after)

Authors: faye_dartmouth and moogsthewriter

Summary: Falling is easy. Landing can kill. But getting back up — it’s getting back up that’s the key.

A/N: This started on a whim when I said I wanted to have a fic where Billy was impaled on something. moogsthewriter indulged me and started. I picked it up where she left off and then she added on the ending. We both gave it a read through and this is the result :)

Disclaimer: Not ours.

The first time Billy broke a bone, he was six years old. He can’t remember much of the incident itself — there’d been a concussion to go along with his cast on his arm — but he remembers the feeling of his stomach flying into his throat as he fell from the tree; the moment of realization that something bad was about to happen; the calm serenity of acceptance just before impact. After that, his memory is blank for about six days or so, which his father tells him was mostly spent in and out of consciousness at the hospital, throwing up nearly every hour in between classic reruns of Doctor Who.

Billy’s lost track of how many times he’s been to the hospital over the years; it’s well into the dozens by now; perhaps even triple digits. He’d been a rambunctious lad, and his chosen career path has a higher injury rate than the average layman’s, so he’s no stranger to injury or the antiseptic smell of hospitals. Some hospital visits he remembers because of the locale; others, because of the scars marring his skin, even if he doesn’t always clearly remember how he got them. Still others he remembers only because his teammates try to avoid going back to those areas, haunted by memories of what happened last time they were in Prague or Nairobi or Toronto.

But the hazy memory of that first injury has never left him. He’s not entirely sure why; perhaps it had been the novelty of it, that childish instant of hope in the split second before his awful landing where he’d thought maybe they’ll turn the siren on, even the innocent security of knowing mum and dad’ll make it better.

Though in this particular instant, he’s thinking of that first fall because he’s falling again. Not from a tree this time, but still a considerable height. And given that this is an abandoned construction site, there’s bound to be a myriad of unpleasant things waiting to injure him at the bottom of this pit he’s tumbling into — not that he can see any of it right now, since it’s the middle of the night and he’s long ago lost his torch ( flashlight, he thinks as the air flows past his face, the Yanks call them flashlights ).

He can hear his team yelling — Rick in shock, Michael in anger, Casey in determination (he’s no doubt delivering swift retribution to Pryce, not that it matters to Billy at the moment) — and he’s touched by their concern, he really is, but it’s okay now.

Because now, just like all those years ago, he feels a calm acceptance ( well okay, then, he thinks, so this is how it ends ) and he knows that whatever happens to him, the rest of the ODS will still be able to finish up the mission. They’ll be safe, and that’s what matters.

And then there’s impact and white-hot pain for the briefest moment, and then nothing.


Michael should have known better.

When the trail led to the abandoned high rise project, he should have known better than to split up. This is Pryce’s territory, a well-established area for drug deals, full of hidden nooks and crannies and items that can kill in the proper hands.

But that hadn’t stopped him from issuing the order — granted, it was with an extra order of caution, but he’d nevertheless ordered his team to split up. Pryce is just one man, after all, even if he is a drug lord; one man on the run, desperate and caught off-guard, which meant they had the advantage.

Except they don’t, Michael now realizes. Even if it hadn’t been Pryce’s stomping grounds, his desperation has put him over the edge, to the point where he will do anything to stay out of the ODS’s clutches.

Even if that means killing one of the agents on his trail.

Billy’s the one to find him, on the first floor. Old sheets of plastic flutter in the wind, partially blocking the pair from view as Michael and the others approach, drawn by shouts and the sounds of a vicious hand-to-hand fight. But the plastic doesn’t stop them from seeing Pryce slip through Billy’s defenses and land a solid left cross that sends the Scotsman reeling.

Nor does it stop them from seeing the perfectly executed roundhouse kick to Billy’s chest that sends him back, arms windmilling, into the gaping hole of an open shaft to the basement.

For Michael, the next few seconds pass in a haze. He hears yelling, registers the fact that Casey has already moved to subdue Pryce, even understands on some level that he’s one of the people yelling.

But really, all Michael can think about is how he should have known better than this. How he should have strategized differently at the beginning of this mission all those months ago, how he should have seen the inherent dangers in the skeleton of a building, how he should have known Billy’s knack for attracting trouble guaranteed his encounter with Pryce.

But Michael didn’t. And now Billy’s gone, vanished into a literal black hole.

Still, the knowledge that this is inherently Michael’s fault doesn’t stop him from running over to the edge of the shaft with Rick right on his heels; if anything, it makes him run faster. He’s got his MagLite in hand, and with only the briefest moment of hesitation, he aims the powerful beam down into the darkness, adjusting it until it lights up the area where Billy landed.

Beside him, Rick gags. Casey curses.

And as Michael stares, he can’t help but think that even though Billy’s known for rolling with the punches, this might be one fall he can’t bounce back from.


On some level, Casey thinks, he shouldn’t be surprised.

This is Billy, after all. The Scot has a tendency to attract a ridiculous amount of trouble, mostly because he throws himself into the midst of deadly situations with gusto and usually with a wide grin to match.

So of course Billy’s the one to find Pryce. And of course Billy’s the one to fall down the shaft into the basement.

And of course there’s a piece of rebar protruding from the concrete at the bottom.

And of course Billy’s landed on it.

The light from their flashlights illuminates the gruesome scene below. Billy’s unconscious, limbs sprawled, a glistening piece of iron protruding from his upper right shoulder, a puddle of blood steadily expanding beneath him.

Next to Casey, Rick gags. Michael tenses.

Behind them, Pryce groans. Even if he’s waking up already, Casey thinks, he won’t be getting far with a broken right leg and dislocated left knee.

He’s no longer a threat. Which is good, because Casey’s already moved on to other priorities.

The drop from the first floor to the basement isn’t bad when one’s prepared to land on his feet instead of on his back. Casey keeps his knees supple as he lands, suppressing the pain of impact and focusing instead on the body in front of him.

The ease of the landing doesn’t make it any easier to face what he’s seeing. If Casey lets himself, he could panic; but there’s no time to panic, not with Billy down a hole with a piece of metal stuck through his shoulder.

On the ground, the darkness makes it hard to see, and he’s grateful when Michael shifts his light from above, moving it so it’s clearly trained on Billy’s upper body once again.

Although, as Casey gets a better look, he’s not sure “grateful” is really the right word for it. Because in the glaring beam, Billy looks even worse. His face is pale, turned just slightly to the side, mouth hanging lax.

It’s never a reassuring thing to see one of his teammates unconscious, but it’s a reality Casey has learned to deal with over the years.

Still, Casey’s not entirely sure how to deal with this.

Up close, it’s clear that the rebar has poked through Billy’s shoulder in what appears to be a non-vital location. It’s surely made a mess of the muscles and nerves and there’s a chance it caught the clavicle or even the scapula, which could entail a long and painful recovery for Billy when they get him out of here.

Looking at the wound again, though, Casey thinks when is a little ambitious. After all, Billy’s impaled on a piece of rebar in a remote construction site with an internationally-wanted drug dealer in a country where they aren’t lawfully permitted to conduct operations. There are so many obstacles to getting Billy out and to help that Casey’s not sure he wants to start making a mental list.

So, he doesn’t. It’s really pretty simple in Casey’s mind. He has to handle one pressing task at a time, and even if he’s not sure where they’re going to go next, he knows he has to do something to help Billy now.

Because Billy’s not just impaled on a piece of rebar; he’s also bleeding profusely, which means that the wound is open and leaking, and at this rate, there isn’t a lot of time for worried what-ifs.

Moving forward, Casey positions himself next to Billy’s head, squatting carefully. He moves his hands gently but efficiently, using a pocketknife to slice through the fabric of Billy’s jacket and the shirt underneath to the point where he can lift away the layers to get a better look at the injury.

The skin is torn and red, and Casey tightens his jaw and puts the fabric back. He bends down, gently shifting Billy’s arm to discern where the rebar originates. It’s hard to see in the dark without jostling Billy, but by wriggling his fingers underneath, he can feel where the metal goes into Billy’s back and where it protrudes from the cement.

Grimacing, Casey pulls his hands back, wiping the blood on his pants.

Up above, the light wavers just slightly as Michael calls, “How is he?”

Casey collects a breath, pressing a finger into Billy’s neck, counting off the beats of his heart. Under his touch, the Scotsman doesn’t flinch, his pale features impassive. Suppressing a shudder, Casey shakes his head, feeling grim. “Shocky,” he calls back, glancing up.

Above him, Michael’s face is composed and resolved. By his side, Rick looks visibly shaken.

Casey looks back to Billy, noting the wheezing of his breathing. “We’re going to have to get him out of here — quickly,” he says, refusing to think about what might happen if they don’t.

“Can you move him?” Michael asks.

Casey glances back up with a pointed look. “He’s impaled on a piece of rebar,” he says flatly. “That’s going to be a little difficult, unless you’d like him to bleed out in front of your eyes.”

“Can you move the rebar?” Rick asks.

It’s such an obvious question at this point that it almost annoys Casey to answer. “Unless you have a jackhammer nearby, I think we’re out of luck,” he says. “Besides, I wouldn’t want to risk moving him without a professional opinion. I don’t think it’s hit anything vital, but he’s lost too much blood already and if we do it wrong, he could bleed out just that much faster.”

Rick doesn’t seem to know what to do with this information, but understanding is already dawning on Michael’s face, and Casey can easily see that their team leader is hatching a new plan. Something to take care of Pryce, to get Billy help, to get them a clean exit, one way or another.

It’ll be improvised and it’ll be slipshod, but knowing Michael, it’ll work.

Casey looks at Billy again, looks at his pale face and limp body, looks at the rebar in his shoulder and the blood on the ground, and has to believe it’ll work.


If Rick hadn’t been involved with the ODS for several months now, he might think that the tales of their exploits were exaggerated. After all, the rumors of surviving five nights in the Russian wilderness or the stories of jumping out of crashing planes over the Pacific seem too far fetched to possibly be true.

But now, Rick’s lived his share of impossible missions. Sneaking out of North Korea, having his cover compromised in Russia — the ODS makes a mission of the impossible and does it without the glitz and glamor one might expect.

So, really, Rick thinks he shouldn’t be so surprised by this. Tracking Pryce had been one thing — a ridiculous chase that had taken them through three countries and two time zones — and to think, Rick had thought that would be the crazy part of the mission.

But standing over the hole, looking down at Billy splayed limply and pinned on rebar, he sees the folly in his thought. In the ODS, everything that can go wrong, will go wrong, which is why their missions make for the best break room fodder. In fact, he can almost hear it now — the furtive whispers about how the ODS tracked the man and cornered him in a true display of espionage brilliance, how they managed to pull their injured man out without compromising their mission or their cover, and how Billy has the scars to prove it.

It’s a good story. Rick just hopes that’s the story they get to tell when this is over. He wants to believe it will be, even if he’s not sure how right now.

Because at the moment, things aren’t looking so good. Casey’s assessment of Billy’s condition is sobering, though Rick only has to look at Billy to know that things are less than ideal. The Scotsman is pale and unmoving, and it’s probably the longest Rick has ever seen the taller man be still and quiet, which is more than a little unnerving.

Then, of course, there’s the rebar to contend with. It’s a complication they don’t need, and Rick’s practical mind is already going through the way it changes things. If they can’t move Billy, if they can’t move the rebar, then they’re going to need some kind of backup. There’s no CIA backup in the area that could handle that kind of extraction, and while they might be able to cajole Higgins into military or interagency support sometimes, none of that will help extract a wounded man from a delicate situation when time is of the essence.

No, they need an EMS and a fast trip to a hospital.

In some ways, that’s easier because that’s common civilian aid.

In other ways, it’s far more complicated. Because they are technically civilians, but they’re also CIA. If the local authorities catch wind of who they really are — and their situation is bound to raise some flags — Rick knows the consequences won’t be good.

Not that the consequences of doing nothing are so good, either.

In this, Rick’s not sure what to do. Not even sure what to think. So he stands there dumbly at the top of the hole, looking down as Casey continues his field care and Billy just lies there.

Next to him, Michael collects a breath. “Here,” he says shortly, thrusting the light into Rick’s hands. “I need you to hold that steady, keep it so Casey can see what he’s doing.”

Rick fumbles a little to catch the light but lifts it quickly, repositioning the beam until it’s shining starkly on Billy’s slack face. Even from this distance, Rick can see the sheen of sweat on the Scot’s forehead, the slick of blood on Casey’s hands as he works to move away the layers of Billy’s clothing to properly expose the wound.

The beam wavers and Rick has to consciously steady his hand. Pained, he looks away to Michael, who is rustling behind him.

When he comes back into view, he’s holding rope and a cell phone. He drops the rope to the ground and holds out the cell phone to Rick. “This one’s clean,” he says, nodding at the phone. “You’ll need to ditch it before we head back, but you can use it for now to call for help.”

With his free hand, Rick takes it. “And the rope?”

“In case you need to get down,” he says, and leaves it at that, but Rick understands the implications. In case Rick needs to go down and help Casey; in case Billy takes a turn for the worse.

Rick swallows hard. “So what’s the plan?”

Michael’s features are pinched, lines hard around his eyes and set into his forehead. “Our first priority is to secure Pryce,” he says, and Rick glances back to where the man is still writhing on the ground. “We’ve already got the chopper in place to extradite him back to the United States.”

Rick nods and frowns at once. “And Billy?”

Michael’s jaw works a little but his expression stays the same. “You and Casey will stay with Billy,” he says. “Once Pryce and I are clear, you need to call local emergency personnel.”

“Is that safe?” Rick can’t help but ask.

Michael inclines his head. “It’s less than ideal,” he admits.

From below, Casey grunts. “Billy dying would be even less ideal,” he reminds them. Then he pauses, collecting his knife off the ground and putting it in his pocket. “We’re going to have to ditch our weaponry or we’ll get flagged by the hospital’s security.”

“Smart call,” Michael agrees. “Lose anything that could affiliate you with the CIA or any kind of investigative capacity. You’re business investors, looking to restart this construction project. Understood?”

It’s a simple plan; compared to most of their exploits, it’s almost painfully devoid of crafting and care. But they don’t have time for much more than that.

Looking at Billy again, Rick knows they don’t have much time for anything.

Pocketing the cell phone, Rick nods tightly, pulling out the blade he’d been carrying. He hands it to Michael, even though it makes him feel more vulnerable than he already does. “What about you, Casey?” he asks, looking down again.

Casey is shaking his head, still trying to attend to Billy wound. “I’ll ditch them before we get to the hospital,” he says. “And hope they buy this as a very unfortunate accident.”

Michael grunts a little. “I trust in your ability to convince them of that,” he says. “And don’t forget Billy’s—”

Casey’s already on it, reaching into the Scotsman’s jacket and removing the knife hidden there. “We’ve got it, Michael,” Casey says before looking up and holding their leader’s gaze.

Rick nods in agreement. “We’ll take it from here,” he says.

Michael looks at him, and there’s a moment of indecision in his face. Not that he doubts his team, but it’s clearly not in Michael’s nature to abdicate control, especially not of something so important.

But Rick nods again, offering as much certainty as he can. Because he’s not just the new guy anymore. He’s a part of this team, and finishing the mission and getting Billy to safety is just as important to him as it is to the rest of them.

Rick can’t fail that; he won’t.

For once, Michael seems to believe him. He nods back, holding Rick’s eyes just a moment longer. “Take care of Billy,” he says again. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

With that, Michael heads off, hauling Pryce up roughly and ignoring their captive’s grunts of pain as he drags him away forcibly. Rick watches them go for a minute, watches until they’re almost out of sight, before looking back to Casey.

The older operative is looking up at him. He’s torn away most of Billy’s shirt, exposing the macabre wound. His pants are darkened and wet with blood, his hands nearly covered. He inclines his head, face drawn and serious. “You ready for this?” he asks.

Rick takes a breath, then another. Keeping the light steady, he pulls the phone back out and swallows. “I hope so,” he says.

“It’ll work,” Casey assures him, and if it seems unusual to hear comfort from the normally negative man, he counters it by adding, “Or, if not, at least this time we won’t necessarily die trying.”

Rick frowns.

Casey shrugs. “What’s a few dozen years locked in a foreign prison on charges of espionage?” he asks. His eyes drift back to Billy, who is still prone on the ground. “If it saves Billy’s life...”

At that, Rick nods, resolute. Because even if he doubts the rest, he’s certain of the need to do that much.


Billy doesn’t have a problem with falling. To the contrary, he’s always made his peace with his tumbles, embracing the weightlessness and finding certain comfort in the wind rushing by his ears. He can’t change the way his feet leave the ground and if he can’t tell up from down, then he can’t tell if things are over or just beginning.

Falling is a loss of control, which is never pleasant, but worrying about it after the fact is like crying over spilled milk.

No, Billy doesn’t have a problem with falling. Rather, he has a problem with hitting the ground. It’s not the fall that kills you, after all. It’s that sudden stop at the end.

Billy’s never been a fan of such stops, literally and figuratively, and Billy’s done his share of falling to know. From falling out of the tree in the backyard and breaking his arm, to screwing up a mission and getting himself decommissioned and deported, Billy falls with a flourish, to be sure. It’s life afterward that he inevitably struggles with.

As a child, that cast had been more than somewhat cumbersome, keeping him from playing football with his mates all summer and costing him the chance to go camping with Andrew Gallagher.

As an adult, he’d ended up alone and embarrassed on foreign soil, with a career in shambles and a reputation that he’s still trying to repair in some corners of the world. Not to mention the small detail that he can’t go home.

But he’s always survived, which is something. His mother used to tell him that boys like him bounced and evidence generally did support that claim, though admittedly in a less than scientific way.

So Billy remembers falling. Remembers the construction site, remembers Pryce’s cheap shot and the kick to his chest. He remembers losing his footing and just falling.

But the thing is — and this is truly starting to bother him now — he can’t remember hitting the ground.

True, this may be for the best, considering the pain usually involved in such an event, but the absence of memory is bothersome to him, grating at his subconscious and tickling the back of his mind until he has no choice but to figure it out.

With that decision, awareness comes filtering back. Slowly at first, and there’s the sensation of something hard beneath him. That gives way to discomfort and as Billy shifts to get away from it, the pain makes itself known. It aches in his chest, pounds in his head, and Billy takes a breath before it erupts in his shoulder.

The agony is so sharp, so sudden that he can’t fight his ascension to consciousness, and he comes to with a choked sob that catches in his throat.

He tries to move, but someone puts a hand to his chest, holding him steady.

“I would recommend against moving.” Casey’s voice is wry, but there’s definitely concern underlying it, which is generally not a good sign.

Billy blinks a few times, sucking in harsh, shallow breaths as his vision clears and he flinches away from an onslaught of light.

Casey’s hand is unyielding, so Billy settles for rolling his head to the side, grimacing at the slight movement, which sends sharp pain through his body and twists dangerously in his stomach. After a moment, he cranes his head back slightly, catching sight of Casey perched at his side.

Casey’s face is taut, and he looks both tired and relieved. “Of course you’d pick now to wake up,” he says.

Billy manages a wan smile. “I have been told my sense of timing is impeccable.”

“Impeccably annoying,” Casey agrees, but the sarcastic bite to his voice sounds forced.

At that, Billy frowns, remembering this time to keep himself still. “Pryce?”

“Michael’s getting him secured as we speak,” Casey reports.

Billy’s brow creases somewhat. “I’m afraid I let him get the best of me,” he says, feeling sheepish.

Casey’s face betrays no emotion. “A momentary lapse,” he says by way of assurance. “Happens to the best of us.”

The gentleness of it is almost surprising, and the disbelief eclipses the pain for a moment. “Is that an admission of weakness?” he asks.

Casey’s lips quirk into a small smile. “Well, it happens to the rest of you, anyway,” he says. “And in this light and the unknown terrain, he had the upper hand. Son of a bitch knew just where he was taking us.”

Billy’s joviality fades as fresh pain ignites in his body. “I should have seen it coming,” he grits out.

Casey shrugs. “We can discuss a new training regimen to get you back on your game later,” he says. “Right now, I need you to focus on being still while we get you out of here.”

This is the practical reality of the situation; for as much as Billy’s always liked to talk like a dreamer, he’s lived his life from one mundane pragmatism to the next. He doesn’t think of it as settling, though; in his mind, it’s survival.

So he takes Casey’s suggestion to heart and lets his eyes roam, squinting again at the light. “Is that young Rick manning the light?” he asks. “Because I think he’s being a wee bit overzealous.”

Casey inclines his head. “I need the visibility,” he says. “Unless of course you would prefer me to work in the dark while I assess your imitation of a shish kabob.”

It’s just like Casey to say something with such weight without any sort of emotion. Half curious, Billy’s eyes wander and in the brightness, he sees the metal.

It glints in the light, sticking several feet above his head. Billy is contemplating why it’s there when he actually realizes what Casey said.

Shish kabob. A piece of metal glinting with blood. He follows it down, sees it where it hits his shoulder.

Only it’s more than that. Casey has pulled back Billy’s shirt and jacket, and in the glaring light, it’s easy to see the inflamed and ripped skin where the rod is poking through.

For a second, Billy can only stare. The pain makes sense now, mounting as tears sting at his eyes. “Oh,” he says as the pain ratchets upward again. “Well, that’s a new one.”

Casey grunts. “Only you,” he says, shaking his head, but the admonition is weak.

Billy nods convulsively, blinking rapidly as he looks back up through the growing haze of pain. “Well, I’m just testing your emergency preparedness,” he says, almost choking on his own voice. He gasps slightly, his body starting to tremble against his will. “And right now, I must say, you are in peak form, as always.”

He’s going for casual and confident, but it sounds wispy and uncertain, even to him. He wants to rectify that for Casey’s deserving sake but when he takes a breath to try, the pain almost blinds him, and the world tunnels dangerously.

Casey’s hand is on him again, fingers laced around his arm. “Billy,” he says, and there’s a note of pleading under the order. “You need to stay awake.”

Billy wants to comply — it’s in his nature to be accommodating, especially with his mates — but it’s harder than it should be.

Too hard.

He’s trembling in earnest now and his limbs feel cold around the fire in his shoulder.

“We’re going to get you out of here,” Casey promises, almost desperately. “Damn it, we’re going to get you out.”

At this point, Billy’s not sure who Casey is trying to convince, and he wants to offer some kind of reassurance, but his awareness is flagging too badly.

In fact, it’s all Billy can do to stay awake, to look up at the light, to look up at the height and wonder about how far it is. Because falling is easy. Landing can kill him. But getting back up — it’s getting back up that’s the key.

That’s why he’d climbed that tree the day he’d gotten his cast off. That’s why he’d agreed to work for the CIA even after being disgraced out of the SIS.

That’s why.

But this time, Billy’s not so sure he can. Because the distance is just so far and his body feels so weak and the rebar in his shoulder is just too penetrating.

Somewhere, Casey’s talking, but the light above Billy begins to fade until there’s nothing left.

Nothing left at all.


In some ways, it’s easy.

Pryce, for all the trouble he caused them, is easy to control now. Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s finally been caught, or maybe it’s the fact that he’s got a busted leg and knee — Michael doesn’t know and Michael doesn’t care. He’s already wasted too much time on this piece of scum, and he’s more than ready to turn him over to the military and be done with the entire thing.

This mission kept changing after they got Higgins’ approval for it, but Michael’s always had his exit figured out. He’s had a military helicopter on the ready thanks to Fay’s constant backup, and all he has to do is zip tie Pryce, throw him in the back of their rental car, and double time it to the drop zone she specified on their last transmission.

So really, after all his work, Michael has the easy job. Pryce is subdued and the military chopper is on time, and all Michael has to do is show up and make the drop.

As easy as it is, though, it’s probably one of the hardest things Michael has had to do in the last few years. Because every mile he drives with Pryce safe in the backseat is another mile away from his team, where Billy’s impaled on a piece of rebar and bleeding out in an abandoned construction site.

Michael’s fingers tense on the wheel, and he looks in the rearview mirror. Pryce is slumped miserably in the seat and the road out the back window is dark. Michael reminds himself why he had to do this, why it was the only choice, but no matter how hard he tries, he can’t relax his grip or stop his brain from thinking about the potential consequences of the choices he’s made.

Pryce has to be turned over to authorities. There’s no denying that. And there was no feasible way to keep Pryce on site and get Billy the help he needed. The drop had to be made — and quickly — and any delay would have resulted in possible compromise of the mission and their covers.

Besides, Michael reminds himself as he looks at the road ahead, he trusts his team. He trusts Rick to keep his cool, hold their cover. He trusts Casey to tend Billy’s injury, keep Billy alive. And he expects Billy to survive, no matter what.

His team has earned that trust, no question. But it’s still hard.

Because this is Michael’s mission. It’s his responsibility. He feels like he’s shirking that, letting his team down. He’s literally leaving them behind this time. And that’s hard — harder than any mission.

The car hits a rut in the road, and Michael’s attention channels on the task at hand. In the back, Pryce groans. “You alive back there?” Michael asks crisply.

Pryce’s face is pale and sweaty. “It hurts, you son of a bitch,” he grits out through clenched teeth.

Michael smiles darkly. “Please accept my apologies,” he says, and then he promptly veers the car right into a pot hole.

Pryce cries out again, and Michael adjusts his course with a self-satisfied smirk. It’s not nearly as much as Pryce deserves — for his crimes, for what he did to Billy — but it’s as much justice as Michael can deliver.

The satisfaction is short lived because thinking of Billy makes Michael’s stomach turn. He can still see Billy flailing as he falls, still see the blood slicking the ground and the glint of the rebar at the bottom of the hole. Logically, he knows Billy’s probably getting help by now, maybe even out of the hole. Michael will meet up with Casey and Rick at the hospital, be there when Billy wakes up.

And Billy will wake up, because he’s a lucky bastard like that, and he always bounces back, even when it seems like he shouldn’t.

Especially then, and Michael can’t let himself think otherwise.

Michael presses the gas pedal harder, fingers tightening again on the wheel as he wills the car to go faster. Just because this is the easy part doesn’t mean it’s not damn hard after all.


One of the reasons Casey likes being in the ODS is that it means he doesn’t always have to bother himself with bureaucracy. He mostly resents being told how and why to do things, and he abhors the wasteful nature of committees and subcommittees, all drawn up to turn one simple task into fifteen infinitely more ridiculous ones. He can work within the system when he needs to, but he likes the fact that, when push comes to shove, the ODS will do the things that need to be done, red tape and regulations be totally and thoroughly damned.

Which is why this has been so hard on Casey. Between the protocol the EMTs had insisted on following, effectively slowing down how quickly Billy was transferred to the hospital, to the mounds of inane paperwork that had to be completed upon their arrival, Casey has had more than his fill of idiocy. It strains his patience, makes his head ache just behind his eyes, and the stress settles on his shoulders and in the crook of his neck with a nagging persistence. No matter what pressure point he presses, none of it will go away.

And, if Casey is honest, the fact that he’d watch Billy nearly bleed out before the moronic EMTs got him to the hospital isn’t helping matters any.

In general, Casey prides himself on his emotional detachment. He’s made a career of being rough and abrasive and keeping everyone at arm’s length. He doesn’t let himself fall prey to ideas such as affection and companionship, because such things are for the weak. Such things make him weak.

At least, that’s what he tells himself and he dares anyone to challenge him on it. After six years, Michael and Billy really know better, and he’s pretty sure Rick’s a fast enough learner to not question it either.

But all of Casey’s carefully crafted deflections aside, nothing changes that gnawing fear in his stomach when one of his own is in peril. He’s cut out his family, broken the hearts of all his lovers, and stridently avoided friendships, but he can’t ignore his teammates. It’s an actual impossibility. He can’t work with them day in and day out, he can’t go on missions with them, he can’t risk his life for them and have them risk theirs in return, and feel nothing. Casey’s a human weapon, not a robot.

This is why his calm had been shattered in South America when Rick was bleeding out in the back of a van. This is why Casey can’t sit still while they wait for news on Billy in this foreign hospital room.

Casey isn’t prone to restless movement, but he can’t sit still. He’s on his feet, pacing back and forth, muttering a song under his breath as he tries not to watch the seconds tick by on his watch. Of course, none of that changes the fact that he knows they’ve been here exactly four hours and twenty-nine minutes.

Four hours and twenty-nine minutes of waiting.

Billy had been rushed off to an examination room and Casey had done his best to follow but the nurses had been surprisingly forceful, and Casey’s linguistic skills aren’t developed enough to convey let me in or I’ll kill you now in a foreign language.

Casey might have forced the issue, but Rick had been there, hand on his arm, reminding him of their cover.

In retrospect, it’s actually kind of impressive. Casey spares the kid a glance as he paces. He looks weary, a scared rabbit expression on his sallow cheeks. He hasn’t moved from the chair since he sat down, staring dumbly at the wall as the time passed with no word about Billy.

Still, appearances aside, the kid has some grit to him, Casey has to give him that. Rick has proven himself to be an effective member of this team, and this is no exception. He’d handled the entire contact with emergency personnel like a true professional, efficient enough to get Billy help promptly without compromising anything regarding their mission or their cover.

And he did it all without attempting to kill anyone, which is a feat Casey couldn’t have accomplished in this situation alone.

That’s a sobering thought, and Casey looks down again at his hands. They’re still covered in dried blood, which has caked into the crevices and crusted under his nails. His pants are stiff with it, and he probably looks morbid.

Working his jaw, he looks up again with a sudden and unexpected fit of self consciousness. At least this explains why the other people in the waiting room have been eyeing him so uncertainly.

Grinding his teeth, he’s annoyed at the revelation, because he prefers to think of everyone else as the problem. More than that, he’s not used to losing sense of himself like that. He’s not used to being out of control.

And that’s what this is about. Control. Ever since he watched Billy fall, he’s been grappling for control and not finding anything. Because he can incapacitate the bad guy, treat Billy’s wound, and pace in a waiting room, but he can’t ultimately determine whether Billy lives or dies.

The clarity of that revelation is even more unsettling, and Casey’s brow furrows as he turns sharply and paces back in the opposite direction.

From the chair, Rick looks at him tiredly. “You should sit down,” he says finally.

Casey levels a glare at him. “And you should shut up.”

Rick doesn’t flinch at the callous words. Casey absently wonders if he’s getting too soft. “It’s not helping,” Rick adds.

“And sitting will?” Casey shoots back.

Rick has no reply to that. Casey paces again.

After several more minutes, Rick takes another breath. “You’re just stressing me out.”

Casey rolls his eyes. “Billy is in surgery to remove a piece of rebar from his shoulder after suffering from severe blood loss and my pacing is what’s stressing you out?”

Rick seems to accept this. “I’m just saying—”

Casey looks at him sharply. “Don’t,” he says, voice low and dangerous. “Billy’s blood is on my hands and the last time we saw him, he was unconscious and in shock. So don’t say anything.”

Casey tries to say it as a threat, but the emotion is heavy.

Rick resettles himself. “It’ll be okay—”

Casey stops cold and looks at Rick with disdain. “And don’t do that either,” he orders.

Rick blinks. “Don’t do what?”

“Offer platitudes,” Casey says.

“I’m just trying—” Rick begins.

Casey shakes his head. “To what? Soften the blow? To ease the tension?” Casey asks in accusation. “It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change how Billy’s faring in surgery and it doesn’t fix the weight of not being there when we both want to be.”

The rant is stronger than Casey maybe intends, and Rick turns withdrawn from it, shoulders slumping further as he slouches in defeat.

To make matters worse, none of it makes Casey feel better. He’s right — there’s certainly no doubt about that — but putting Rick in his place and effectively silencing him doesn’t change anything, except now Casey feels like he kicked a puppy.

Guilt, he recognizes immediately as he starts pacing again. He’s feeling guilty.

Which is preposterous. None of this is inherently Casey’s fault, and even if he can saddle himself with responsibility, feeling guilty is entirely unproductive. He needs to stay practical and cognizant, and he doesn’t have time for guilt or Rick’s platitudes or the bureaucracy of international heath care.

He needs Billy to be okay. He needs the mission to be over and his team to be safe and damn it, Casey’s just as soft as Rick is, even if he has the better sense to hide it.

Still, he looks at the kid. Rick’s been in some tough situations before, but there’s a difference between bleeding out yourself and watching your teammate suffer through it. There’s physical pain and emotional suffering, and Casey knows which one he’d take any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Casey sighs, stopping mid-pace again. “It’s just that your platitudes are unnecessary,” he says.

Rick looks up, somewhat surprised. “What?”

Casey sighs again, with gusto this time. “Billy doesn’t need our platitudes.”

Rick’s face darkens. “So we’re supposed to do nothing?”

“No,” Casey says curtly. “We’re supposed to do just this.”

With a blank look, Rick looks around. “Nothing?”

Casey gives him an exasperated look. “Be here,” he says.

Rick still stares.

It’s clear Rick is going to need it spelled out. “When you were shot, do you remember anything we said?”

Rick considers this. “It’s all kind of blurry.”

“Exactly,” Casey says. “Platitudes don’t help, but do you remember us being there?”

Rick nods. “It’s the first and last thing I remember,” he admits.

“Words are superfluous. When everything else is lost, presence is everything. Solidarity is key and it’s the most important thing Billy will need when he wakes up.”

Rick is still staring at him, and Casey rolls his eyes. He doesn’t do emotions and he doesn’t feel guilt, and evidence to the contrary can really be damned.

If Rick’s posture eases, if Casey’s pace relaxes, then that’s entirely coincidence as the minutes tick by.


Rick’s trained for the hardest situations imaginable, but if he’s honest, nothing has prepared him for this.

There are courses on withstanding torture, instruction on top secret infiltration. He’s studied up on language and international laws. He knows how to use countless types of weaponry and is decently adept at all forms of technology.

But there’s no course on waiting for a teammate to wake up.

That’s what it is now, and Rick refuses to think otherwise. Because Billy is going to be okay. The surgery had been long and complicated. According to the doctor, the rebar had hit the bone, leaving a mess to clean up and that didn’t even start in on the blood loss and muscle damage. Clearing out the fragments had been only half the battle; attempting to reconstruct the shoulder in a way that would allow Billy to stay an active member of the CIA had been entirely another.

Still, Billy is going to be okay. This is the mantra Casey and Michael have pounded into his head and the doctor has repeatedly backed it up. The nurses say Billy’s vitals are rebounding remarkably and he’s showing signs of improvement every hour. There’ll be a long road to recovery, but the prognosis is good.

That’s what matters, Rick reminds himself. That Billy is going to wake up, that they’ll all leave this hospital together. But it’s hard. Because Rick’s spent all night in a hospital and Billy still looks a little like death warmed over lying in the hospital bed, and no matter how hard Rick tries, every time he closes his eyes, he can still see Billy lying at the bottom of that hole.

Billy’s the one who hit the ground, but Rick’s still feeling the impact. Because this is Billy. This is the ODS. This is the last of the old school spooks. That used to mean something distinctive in Rick’s mind, but he’s not sure anymore. Because his teammates—they’re not invincible. They’re just human.

They’re just human.

At first, Rick had thought his teammates were nonsensical pains in his ass. In fact, he had been fairly certain that they were insane and dangerous. Over time, however, he’s come to see them as something just shy of superheroes. Annoying, aggravating, and asinine, but damn near superheroes nonetheless. Because their plans always worked when they shouldn’t and they always got the mission done when it seemed impossible and somehow they were always alive even when the odds were stacked against them.

But when Billy fell, when Rick saw the blood — it had changed. At the time, he hadn’t had time to think about it much. Now, a day later, Rick’s not sure what that means.

To make matters worse, his team isn’t exactly helpful in figuring it out. Or in anything for that matter. Michael showed up in the morning, looking somewhat haggard but not missing a beat. After checking in with Rick and Casey, he had done what neither of them had managed and gotten a nurse to update them on Billy’s surgery. Since then, Michael has been stoic, leading relations with the hospital staff even as he maintains his position right at Billy’s bedside in the ICU.

Casey has been contrary, which is not too unusual. After their near-bonding in the waiting room (which Rick thinks may actually have been a dream), he’s been relentless in his vigil, glaring so hard that Rick is convinced the man is dangerously close to hurting someone. He offers snide commentary when the situation presents itself, but he hasn’t moved from his position against the wall of Billy’s cubicle, which says more than anything else.

For his part, Billy hasn’t done much except sleep. He’s been heavily drugged of course, and he’s surrounded by a myriad of medical equipment that Rick chooses not to think too hard about. At the very least, his mouth is covered with an oxygen mask and the doctor thinks Billy will wake up in the next few days. He doesn’t so much as twitch, not when the nurses check his vitals and not when Casey threatens him with more bodily harm and Michael tells jokes that really aren’t funny.

Overall, no matter how positive the prognosis, Rick can’t shake the feeling that nothing’s okay about this picture. The stress has been building all mission and now that Rick’s been without sleep for a day, his nerves are starting to fray. It doesn’t help that Billy won’t wake up and Michael and Casey won’t shut up. Rick is trying to be calm; he’s trying to believe the doctor, but he’s not sure how much more of this he can take.

“It’s just the system,” Casey says. He’s making a face at the tray of food the staff brought for Billy. “They can’t even do a simple check to see if the patient would need food, much less want a pathetic excuse like this.”

Michael lifts his nose, looking at the tray. It seems to be chicken with vegetables as far as Rick can tell, but Michael seems unconvinced. “Billy would eat it,” Michael decides despite his obvious doubts.

“Were he not unconscious and sedated, maybe,” Casey agrees. “He doesn’t understand that the human body is what it eats.”

“Well, Billy’s been a pretty effective potato chip in the field, then,” Michael says.

“As team leader, you should not condone this behavior,” Casey says.

This wouldn’t be so bad of a conversation if it wasn’t the continuation of hours of pointless back and forth.

Hours. Rick only wishes that were an exaggeration.

Rick’s not sure what they’re trying to prove, but he’s suddenly had more than enough. “We don’t have to talk, you know,” he blurts out.

Michael and Casey look at him.

Rick shrugs. “For my sake,” he says. “You don’t have to keep acting like everything is okay.”

Michael makes a face. “And what makes you think that’s what we’re doing?” he asks.

“More importantly, what makes you think things aren’t okay?” Casey adds.

Rick looks from one to the other and then to Billy. Then, he laughs. “You mean, Billy impaling himself on a piece of rebar and undergoing reconstructive surgery and receiving three transfusions isn’t obvious enough?”

He’s laughing because, really, it seems like common sense. It is common sense, which is probably why Michael and Casey are looking at him like he’s completely lost his mind.

“Billy’s going to be fine,” Michael tells him in no uncertain terms.

“But you heard the doctor,” Rick says, protesting slightly. “It could be months—”

“Or it could be weeks,” Casey counters. “Billy’s the type to play the odds and win.”

“But—” Rick begins again.

“But what?” Michael says. “You think we chased Pryce, pulled Billy out of a hole, got the mission done, just to settle for anything less than success?”

Rick gapes for the lack of something better to say. In his mind, he blames the lack of sleep and the mind numbing conversation, but he really knows better.

Casey shifts against the wall stiffly. “Besides,” he says coolly. “Since when is everything about you.”

It’s a subtle thing, the subtext in Casey’s words, but suddenly Rick hears what they’re not saying.

They’re not putting on a show for him. The banter, the back and forth—it’s not for Rick’s benefit. At least, not exclusively. It’s for them.

Because, it’s just like Rick realized looking down at Billy’s body splayed on a piece of metal: the ODS — they’re just human. Michael and his plans, Casey and his fighting, Billy and his charms: they’re just human, he realizes again, only with fresh meaning. They fall, they break, and they get back up together.

The impact of the revelation is a little jarring, and Rick finds it difficult to close his mouth.

Still, he’s part of this, too, now. So it’s time to start acting like it.

Slowly, Rick closes his mouth, shifting in his seat. He looks to Billy again and, for the first time, he sees what his team sees. Not just everything they did wrong — because there is a time and place for self recriminations — but everything they can still do right. Everything they can still make better.

Billy will be okay. Just like Michael and Casey and Rick. It’s not so much a blind truth as it is a simple necessity to everything they stood for.

Settling back, Rick nods. “Well,” he says. “Then I think you’re all missing the point.”

Michael tilts his head; Casey’s eyes narrow.

Rick shrugs easily. “If Billy would have eaten it, then don’t we owe it to him to ensure that it doesn’t go to waste?”

There’s a small hesitation before Casey makes a face. “Billy resigns himself to these measures only out of desperation,” he says. “I’m sure he’d forgive our abstinence in this case.”

“And besides,” Michael says. “We should save it for him for when he wakes up.”

And Rick smiles as they continue, knowing without a doubt he has a place here, just like the rest of them. Michael keeps the bedside, Casey’s on the wall. Rick stays at the end of the bed while Billy sleeps on.


The first time Billy broke a bone, he was six years old.

He’s not sure why he keeps thinking of this story. It’s not something he really wants to think about, after all — pain and consequences of the fall aside, that was the first time he’d realized his parents couldn’t fix everything. Even the doctors couldn’t fix everything; not right away, at least. They’d had to rely on Billy, on his body’s healing processes, on his will and determination to get better quick so he could get back outside, climbing trees and playing football on the pitch.

And so, after it was all said and done, Billy realized there really was no one he could really count on at all. Not when he was falling, anyway. Not when he was getting back up, either; others might be around to offer a little support, but it was up to Billy to pull himself up by his bootstraps, as the Americans say.

At least, that’s what he thought. He lived with that thought in the back of his mind for years, and time and time again he’d been proven right. From childhood accidents to his final mission with the SIS, the one that nearly cost his life, caused his family to disown him, and forced his country to kick him out, Billy had been left to his own devices.

But then he’d joined the CIA. Then he’d been selected for the ODS.

He’s not even sure when exactly it happened, but somewhere along the line, he realized he’d been wrong all along. Falling was frightening, the landing painful, but getting up after? That could be a lot easier if the right team was at his back, helping him up, pushing him or pulling him or supporting him — whatever it took to get him up on his feet and back into the game.

The ODS is the right team, Billy knows. He knows because they’ve proved themselves time and again. He knows because he’s done the same for them.

And he knows they’ll do it now.

Because Billy’s still falling.

Not physically — at least, he doesn’t think so. His head is spinning and his body feels disconnected, but he still feels anchored. There’s something underneath him, something softer than the concrete from before, and there’s a warm, light pressure on his wrist — a hand, he thinks, keeping him grounded as he fights through the fog of pain and drugs and disorientation.

He remembers what happened. Mostly. The fight with Pryce, and the fall for sure. That moment of calm just before impact, the acceptance of his fate.

After that, things get fuzzier. He remembers the glint of rebar above him; the incapacitating pain in his shoulder. Casey, failing to hide the worry in his voice; Rick, pleading with him to stay with us, Billy, just stay; Michael, telling him to wake up sooner rather than later.

But the thing is, Billy’s not sure he wants to wake up. Even though his body is at rest, Billy hasn’t stopped falling. He doesn’t know how badly injured he is (though he imagines it can’t be good, what with the rebar that had been protruding from his shoulder), and he doesn’t know how long he’s been in this state, and he doesn’t know how long it’s going to be before he can get back to work.

And that’s why he’s still falling. Because he doesn’t even know at this point if he can work — not in the field anyway. Every time he’s been seriously injured in the field, it puts him just a little bit closer to that moment when it’ll all be too much, when he isn’t able to get up after a fall, when his body reaches the point where field work is no longer an option.

Billy doesn’t know what he’ll do if he ever gets benched permanently. He’s meant for working on the ground, in the field; sitting in an office behind a desk is effectively a death sentence for him. Without his job, Billy has nothing. Billy is nothing.


“Is he waking up?”

“I think so. Billy?”

“It’s about damn time. If I have to spend another night in one of these spine-shattering hospital chairs, I will not be held responsible for my actions.”

They’re there. His team. More than that, his friends.

Billy’s not entirely sure why that surprises him. After all, they’re always there — always have been, most likely will be. That’s what’s different about the ODS, after all. It’s more than a unit; it’s a team, even a family.

So Billy’s not surprised; not really. It still catches him off-guard, though, sometimes. He’s spent far more time trying to pick himself up on his own; the near-decade he’s spent with the ODS can’t completely wipe that all away.

Except that it sort of can. Because yes, Billy’s still falling, isn’t quite sure where he’s going to land, but his team is there. His team is there, and they will still be there, even if the fallout from this mission means Billy’s career in the field is over. Things will change, maybe, but that won’t — that presence, that loyalty, that family. That will be there.

And so Billy decides he should at least open his eyes, acknowledge they’re there. He owes them that much. And if that means he finds out he’s going to be having a career change in the near future, well, so be it.

Of course, it figures that as soon as Billy decides he wants to open his eyes, his body wants to do the opposite and shut down. But he’s not going to let that happen — not yet, anyway. He’s got to start taking control of his body again sometime; it might as well be now.

Then, as if on cue (or as if he’s able to read Billy’s mind, which Billy wouldn’t doubt), Michael’s there, encouraging him and ordering him around, just like always. “Come on, Billy, I know you’d probably rather be sleeping, but we’ve been sitting around here for days wondering if you’d eat it, so you should at least wake up enough to tell us.”

“The wha’?” Billy rasps, forcing his eyes open not so much out of determination as sheer confusion.

They’re hovering around his bed — well, Casey’s actually leaning against a wall at the edge of the small room, but that’s how Casey hovers — and as soon as they realize Billy’s actually awake, they all smile. Even Casey, which would worry Billy if he had more energy, because Casey’s not one to smile unless it’s in grim satisfaction of defeating a challenging opponent. Or if he’s managed to best Billy at paper-wad basketball. Like he did a few days before the start of this mission. They’ll have to have a rematch, because losing eight to two is absolutely unacceptable.

It’s also not important right now, Billy realizes, because Michael’s been talking to him and Billy’s missed everything he said to this point. “...more surgery when we get you back to the States, but all things considered, you got lucky. It’ll take awhile, but we’ll get you back out into the field,” Michael says, and it’s like a tremendous weight has been lifted from Billy’s shoulders.

He’ll be fine. He’s injured now — how badly, he’s not even sure — but he’ll be fine and he’ll be able to go back out with his team, and that’s really all that matters right now.

“And I know Berta will be quite pleased to have one of our number within her gasp again,” Casey adds.

Rick shudders, and Billy chuckles, though it’s raspy and rather painful to do so. “You don’t approve of our resident physical therapist?” he asks, nodding gratefully when Michael offers him a glass of water with a straw.

“She’s handsy, ” Rick complains.

“That’s putting it mildly,” Casey agrees with a nod.

Michael’s forehead furrows. “She’s never that way around me,” he says.

Casey and Rick shoot each other sidelong glances. “It happens when she likes the cute ones,” Rick finally says.

“Ooh, zing!” Billy snickers before Michael can respond.

The others stare at him, eyebrows raised. “‘Zing’?” Casey repeats. “Really?”

Billy glares, but the effect is ruined by a yawn and the fact that he’s not been able to open his eyes real wide in the first place.

“Get some rest, Billy,” Michael orders, setting the water aside. “We’ll be right here when you wake up,” he adds as the others nod.

Billy’s never been one to fight Michael’s orders, but it helps that this time as he falls into unconsciousness, he feels not just peace, but security. Security that he’ll wake up again, that he’ll soon be heading back to America — to his home, which is odd, because when he first arrived, he’d never thought he’d have a home again.

Then again, as he fades out to the sound of Rick and Casey discussing something, he thinks it’s not America that provides the sense of home. It’s the family he’s found there. The team that won’t leave him alone when he most needs help. The team that will ultimately be there to catch him when he falls.

And that, Billy thinks, is all he really needs.


Posted by: Ally (leafy07)
Posted at: December 2nd, 2011 02:19 am (UTC)

No need to labour, I believe you are correct XD

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 7th, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)
chaos team 2

LOL! I'm glad I'm not alone in that :)

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